Sochaux preview

Tuesday 6 August 2002

Sean Davis' last gasp winner in the first leg of the Intertoto Cup semi-final gave Jean Tigana's men the vital advantage ahead of their trip to Sochaux.

However, the return leg is going to be far from easy. Having already been defeated at the Stade Bonal in a friendly last season, the players and management will be under no illusions that the match will take a similar flow to the home leg.

Looking back on the match at Loftus Road, assistant manager Christian Damiano was keen not to underplay the significance of the victory.

"The first leg was a good performance because Sochaux were ready to start playing their season and they did very well in the previous round," said Damiano.

"Sochaux are not a physically powerful side but they have more ability on the ball than our previous opponents. But we put them under a lot of pressure in the first half and had some good opportunities so we deserved the win."

As with any pre-season tournament, fitness levels play a key role in determining which team gains the upper hand.

As the Intertoto Cup progresses and domestic seasons all over Europe kick off, competing teams can find themselves going from a state of not being physically ready for competitive matches to having fixture pileups.

As Damiano explained, Sochaux are currently going through such a predicament.

"We expect a difficult game but Sochaux are in a very difficult situation. They drew their first game in the league and lost against us in the Intertoto. Now they've got a very hard game in the league this Saturday.

"I think it will be difficult for them to aim at two targets. Perhaps they might rest some players for the match against us."

Whilst Sochaux manager, Guy Lacombe may be toying with the idea of resting a few of his players ahead of their weekend encounter against French Champions Lens. He won't have the luxury of making such a decision with star striker Pierre Alain Frau.

The under-21 hitman twisted his knee after just 13 minutes at Loftus Road and will be out for up to four weeks as a result. The news came as a relief for Damiano.

"Frau's injury was a lucky situation for us in the first leg. He is their equivalent of Steed Malbranque, one of their best players."

However, the French side could have another ace up their sleeve in the shape of young winger Jaouad Zairi. The Moroccan made an appearance as a substitute last Wednesday and posed a real threat down Sochaux's right wing, as he demonstrated an impressive range of skills.

Regardless of Sochaux's attacking potential, Damiano welcomed a change in his opposition's tactics.

"We will hope to have more space up front in leg because they will need to attack. We will approach the match with the same attitude but we will, perhaps, play more of a counter-attacking game."